Tom Walkinshaw Racing had got into bed with what was then known as British Leyland in 1981, taking over its campaign in the British Saloon Car Championship with the Rover SD1. He saw the potential for the Jaguar XJ-S under the new Group A touring car rules coming into force in the ETC the following season.
“Tom always had a good eye for what was going to work with the regs,” says Paul Davis, team manager for TWR’s XJ-S ETC campaigns. “The Jag had big wheel housings and you could get big wheel combinations in, which was all part of the new Group A rules – the bigger the engine, the more rubber you got.”
The link-up between TWR and Jaguar wasn't a conventional one — the team was initially paid on results. That worked for TWR, the new weapon quickly becoming a race winner. The XJ-S claimed four ETC victories in its maiden season in 1982, after which Jaguar stepped up its funding. Five wins followed in '83 and seven the next year when Walkinshaw himself was crowned ETC champion.
The idea of TWR taking an involvement in the sportscar programme had already taken hold. Davis remembers team members being present when Porsche driver Derek Bell was given permission to try out the XJR-5 at Silverstone immediately after the Silverstone 1,000Km in May '83. The test was billed as an assessment of car's potential for Le Mans, but in truth was probably more PR stunt than technical exercise.
At the end of'83, Walkinshaw was present at a Group 44 test at Daytona. Egan was there, too, and asked Tullius at dinner one evening if the Scot could drive the car in the morning. Legend has it that Tullius declared it wasn't a matter for discussion and promptly left the restaurant.